The Gift That Changed My Life

It was the worst Christmas of my life.

I remember getting out of the cab with my luggage and seeing my husband.  I had just flown back from a six week contract doing A Christmas Carol out at the Pioneer Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was still reeling from his Thanksgiving proclamation he no longer loved me anymore.

He had basically refused to go into it over the phone, so here I was back home….praying this could be saved.

He greeted me at the cab, and every muscle in my body tensed.  As he helped me with my bags, I thought…could there be a miracle?

When I walked into our home and saw he had actually decorated, a surge of hope came up in me, but underneath was something far darker.

This may look like Christmas from the outside, but it was not reflective of our truth. Yes, there were lights and a tree….but they were covering up immense pain.

Actually, this was the real reflection……pretty lights covering up something that was, and had been broken for years.

I went into the bedroom, and curled up into a ball and began to cry.


With everything falling apart, we didn’t travel to see family, so on Christmas morning, we woke to each other, from separate beds.

Christmas day had always been a day of great celebration.

As a child, my parents would have my brother and I wait while the lights were turned on, and we would rush down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

There would be music playing, my parents standing by the tree with arms open, and Santa hats on their heads.

Christmas morning was always filled with LOVE.

This Christmas I woke up in great fear, anxiety and pain.  I prayed for a miracle.  I prayed that the day would end this nightmare, and we would have a happy home again.

Everything felt upside down.  We were exchanging gifts and all I wanted to scream out was,
Why are you giving me this if you don’t love me anymore??

My stomach turned with confusion and anger with everything he gave me.

Thankfully, there were other gifts there.

I opened one from my parents, and soon was holding in my hands beautiful black binoculars.

For years, I had gone on hikes with my parents and borrowed theirs when we were bird watching, so they had finally bought me my own pair.

So that I could see on my own.

I held them for a moment, feeling something very different building in me. A different view.  Turning them over in my hands and bringing them to my eyes, I realized I could see farther.

Farther than my small living room in Queens, and my immense pain.


Have you ever been in a really challenging situation in your Art?

Have you felt the dark cold of rejection, and loss?

What’s more, has this happened during a time when everything and everyone around you is celebrating?

It can be so difficult to put on a “show” or a happy face when inside everything is falling apart.

And we feel this deeply as Artists.

In fact, it affects our art directly, and our ability to attract our audience.

The holidays can be especially challenging as there is a pressure to be celebratory ALL the time.  So, what tends to occur is two extremes….
Extreme Jingle Bell Cheer
Silent Night Shut Down

Neither one is sustainable.  It’s the roller coaster. 

So, what do we do in these moments when our hearts are breaking? How do we continue in our work that is so personal and means so much?


This past week, I led my clients through a powerful Native American Medicine Wheel.

We began with our Successes, then made our way around the wheel to our Surprises, our Failures, and finally our Wisdom.

The wisdom was crucial, because it gave all of my clients the deep a-ha as to their next steps.  They left the call feeling empowered and excited for 2018.

What was most fascinating, was on the wheel, the wisdom comes OUT of the Failures.

We can only SEE the wisdom, when we take the time and space to see what didn’t work.

What is most key to this process, is a space free of judgement.

A space of love.

Do you have this?
Do you know how to create this for your Art?
Is anyone helping you with this?

That Christmas day, I had asked for a miracle, and it came.  It didn’t come in the form I expected, but as I turned over the binoculars in my hand, I was being given a new gift…one that had been sorely missing in my life.

The gift of sight.

Maybe there was a way to view this devastation and gain wisdom.  Wisdom that could lead me to action.  Lead me to a VERY different life… that wasn’t covering up pain.

In this life, the lights would illuminate everything.


OH MY GOSH!!!  He’s SO Beautiful!!

Staring in disbelief at a stunning Cooper’s Hawk just sitting in the tree above my head, I raise my binoculars to my eyes.

Taking in his long feathers, and golden stripes, I smile ear to ear.

Here, honey, take a look!

I hand my binoculars off to my man, watching his mouth open in wonder. I take in his beauty and form, and am overcome with gratitude for his presence and the love he has brought to my life.  Love I prayed for.  And my heart bursts with gratitude for this journey.

From failure to wisdom to action.

Five years later.

As my Zen teacher said to me back in 2013,
You are in the same room you were always in, but now the lights are on.

For this Holiday, I wish you the gift of sight .

Raise your binoculars.

What do you see?

The Inspiration of Awe

I’m covered in crescent moons.

Sitting in the shade, they cover my skin and body as the moon moves over the sun.
I can’t stop smiling!
The light starts to shift, and I can feel it coming. Everyone can. The moment we have been waiting for.
I make my way to the blanket and lay down next to my aunt and stare straight up.
The birds go silent, and the crowd gasps.


Day into night, night into day. I take off my special glasses, lay them on my chest, exclaiming,
Oh my gosh
Oh my gosh
Oh my GOSH!
I start to giggle, my whole body and mind  engaged in this moment, this incredible miracle,
A total eclipse of the sun.
I’ve never seen one before. And the main feeling?
By definition:
an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.
Have you ever felt this?
What were you doing and what did you see?
What did it inspire you to create?
Carolyn Gregoire of the HuffPost writes:
“Psychologists have only recently begun to pay attention to the complicated and varied emotion of awe. In a foundational 2003 paper, psychologists Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley and Jonathan Haidt of New York University outlined how exactly awe works and what effect it has on us. Awe consists of two qualities, Keltner and Haidt say: perceived vastness (something we think to be greater than ourselves), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into one’s current mental structure.
It’s an emotion that can have a tremendous impact. “Fleeting and rare, experiences of awe can change the course of a life in profound and permanent ways,” they write.”
It took days for me to fully process the experience of seeing the eclipse. We had no cloud cover, and I just kept feeling as though I had witnessed something very special.
Laying on the grass in Santee, South Carolina, with a whole crowd, with a whole campsite, heck…with the whole country…I felt I was indeed part of something much larger.
Turns out, this is exactly what we need as Artists. 
Awe actually brings great emotional benefits. Here’s three main ones:
1) Awe improves our relationship with time.
A 2012 Stanford study found that when people experience awe, they are more likely to feel they are “rich” with time. They have plenty of it! The researchers heard statements like,
I have lots of time to get things done!
Time is expanded.
Imagine what you could get done on your Creative projects with THAT mindset!
Imagine kicking Overwhelm to the curb and feeling calm in your day, as you do the work you love so much and see the results you desire.
In another study, the researchers asked people to write about an awe inspiring experience and another group to write about a happy experience. Those writing about the awe-inspiring experience reported an expanded sense of time, while the other group did not.
Place your attention on Awe. Get out in nature, watch an incredible video, go see that work of art or watch that performer that leaves you speechless.
2) Awe can boost your Creativity
We have all stood witness to works of art that were inspired by Awe. Think of Ansel Adams breathtaking landscape photography, or a moving memoir from a life-changing event.
As Artists we have the ability to TRANSLATE our experiences into art for our audience. It’s when our audience goes on this journey with us, that the true magic happens. They bond with you, and want to return again and again, forming a relationship all based on the fact you took that awe-inspiring experience and brought it to life through words, paint, song, or dance.

“A 2012 study from Tel Aviv University found that “expansive thinking” could lead to boosts in creativity. According to the study’s lead researcher, “outward” rather than “inward”-focused thinking helped children to consider different perspectives and see beyond their present situation.

In the study, one group of children was asked to look at a series of photos, beginning with local objects such as a pencil sitting on the desk in front of them, and progressing to vast or faraway things, like the Milky Way galaxy. The other group of children was showed the images in the opposite order, from expansive to immediate. The children in the group that progressed from local to expansive images performed significantly better on a test of creativity directly after looking at the images than the children who looked at nearby images last.”

3) Awe can literally transform you

“1964, psychologist Abraham Maslow formulated his famous theory of “peak experiences” — instances of near-mystical rapture and wonder in the everyday. His description clearly involves an element of awe, and he suggests that “peak” experiences of awe can be transformative, and indeed, life-changing. By Maslow’s description, peak experiences involve “disorientation in space and time, ego transcendence and self-forgetfulness; a perception that the world is good, beautiful and desirable.” He believed that this change in perception — a sort of epiphany — could have transformational effects.”

Remember that your Art is an expression of you. Your art expresses what you believe, your perceptions, and your experience. If you ultimately believe in goodness, that is translated not only to your art, but to your audience.

Your audience wants to feel good.

It’s this bond that makes your audience return again and again. This is what creates raving fans.

If you’re shut down and have no hope or belief in humanity, that will translate into your art and cut off any chance of connection. The seats will be empty, and you will only feel isolated.

Isolation shuts us down as Artists. We need to expand.

Want to cultivate that belief in yourself and transform into the most powerful Artist you can be?

Expose yourself to Awe.

You may find yourself covered in magical crescent moons, smiling for the world to see.